Winter is long and full of excuses

Staying motivated to keep fit during the dark, cold winter months is really hard. Even for me, as someone who rides the trainer when the weather says “go outside, you idiot”. The key to keeping motivated, at least for me, is by setting goals; and not the long-term kind. That’s not to say that goals like “I want to lose weight”, “I want to raise my FTP”, “I want to stay fit” aren’t good goals – they’re great goals, and exactly the kind of thing that riding a smart trainer in a structured way is perfect for.

Where they fail to motivate, is that thinking long-term about less tangible markers doesn’t work very well when competing with lazy. Summer is far away, and there’s lots of time to do all of those things, until there isn’t. Making it worse; if you weren’t active while winding down the clock, your body is heavier, weaker, and slower than it is now. Why give up the fitness you worked for this summer?

For me, the key is creating short-term tangible goals. This is an area where I think using Zwift as an indoor training platform helps immensely. The gamification motivates somewhat: levels, power ups, different bikes, etc. But, I think the real key is the social involvement aspect. Racing, other riders to pass interact with, “Ride-On”s, and elements like the Alpe Du Zwift make it much easier to get on the trainer. Whatever platform you choose to train with, make sure that it has whatever it takes to motivate you to use it.

It’s easy to agree with that in concept, but the application can be a bit harder, so let’s walk through how I actually plan it out.


Climb the Alpe Du Zwift faster than the 182lb Pure Climber.


He has 1:30 on me, which is a pretty big advantage, but not so vast that it’s unachievable (don’t set unrealistic goals). My best time so far is 51:18, which is close enough that I can target improving one hour power (i.e. FTP). Climbing is all about power-to-weight (W/kg), so there are two variable that I can work with.


Not a ton of room on the weight front for me, but I’m not as svelte as I could be, so I’m not going to completely write that off. Diet will help, as will continued focus on long endurance/base rides. When possible, I will get these done outside on the weekend. But, come February/March that might not be possible. So having a long base workout in the library is important.

Given that, the main target has to be improving FTP. I’ve been really lax around calculating it though, so while I have a number that I train with, I haven’t taken an actual test in ages. Figuring it out is probably the first step. There are two main thoughts on how to build FTP: push and pull. My understanding is that the best approach is to do both, in an alternating, structured way, and simple workouts are better than complicated ones. So I use a VO2Max tabata for pull, and SST for push.

Will the plan succeed? I hope so, but the key here is that it doesn’t have to. Even if I don’t achieve the goal, as long as I’m doing the work, I’m not failing. Having a target motivates me to do the work.

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Dennis Keane
Dennis Keane
3 years ago

My best time up the Alp is 1:30. I need a Sherpa….

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